On 1 July 2021, the Wage Theft Act 2020 (Vic) will come into effect. The Act makes it a crime for an employer to deliberately underpay employees, to dishonestly withhold employee entitlements or to fail to keep proper records of employee entitlements in order to gain a financial advantage. These crimes are punishable by a fine of up to AUD 198,264 or 10 years jail for individuals, and a fine of up to AUD 991,320 for companies.
The Fair Work Commission has found that an employer’s decision to not provide an employee with an at-home desk did not mean that the employee had no option but to resign from his job. The employee alleged that he was constructively dismissed when, as part of Victoria’s stage 3 coronavirus restrictions, his employer directed him to work from home but refused to provide him with or pay for a desk at his home. The Commission held that the employee could have purchased a desk himself or borrowed one from a friend.
This decision demonstrates that while employers should provide adequate equipment to allow employees to work from home, there will be a limit on what needs to be provided. Employers should assess what is reasonable and necessary on a case by case basis when requiring an employee to work from home.